The image below, of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, was captured in early 1838 by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype.
It may be the earliest surviving photograph of a person. Two people, actually. Both are in the lower left:
Here’s a close-up:
The standing man is getting his shoe shined, and the other man (partially obscured) is doing the shoe-shining.
Of all the people on the sidewalk that day, these were the only two to stay still long enough (about 10 minutes) to be captured in the image.
Now for the fun part!
What would you name these two Frenchmen?
Let’s pretend you’re writing a book set in Paris in the 1830s, and these are two of your characters. What names would you give them?
Here’s a long list of traditional French male names, to get you started:
For some real-life inspiration, here are lists of famous 19th century and 20th century French people, courtesy of Wikipedia. Notice that many of the Frenchman have double-barreled, triple-barreled, even quadruple-barreled given names. (Daguerre himself was named Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre.)
The name Francesco became the top baby boy name in Italy after Pope Francis was elected in March, according to name researcher Enzo Caffarelli.
The name ‘Francesco’ is the most popular name for newborns in Italy so far in 2013, and it is evident that the impact of the former Jose Mario Bergoglio is the main contributing factor to the name’s new popularity.
This sounds like interesting news…until you consider that the name Francesco was already very popular in Italy. It was the most popular name in the entire country in 2011, in fact. (I haven’t seen the 2012 name data yet.)
Over the weekend, I read through the giant database of Quebec baby names for 2008. Most of the names there were familiar English or French names. A few were (very long!) Native American names. Here are some that stood out:
Anakin & Anakyn (male) – Five of the former, two of the latter.
Archippe (male) – Means “horse-master” in ancient Greek. Not a name I see every day.
Awesome (male) – No pressure to live up to your name or anything.
Coatl (male) – Means “snake” in Nahuatl.
Dakota-Edison (male) – Strikes me as rather American-sounding for a Canadian name.
Dune (female) – Named for the seashore or for sci-fi?
Dung (male) – One of those names that gets lost in translation.
A reader named Tamara is expecting a baby boy in May. She writes:
We are a bi-racial couple…he is Mexican and I am American (white), and are looking for a Spanish name for our little boy. Unfortunately, I don’t LOVE a lot of the Hispanic boy names, and we are having some trouble finding the perfect name.
So far, she and her fiance Oscar like the names Tiago and Gabriel…but here are the issues:
We need a good middle name to go with Tiago. And we haven’t gotten a lot of positive feedback on the name. And I feel like Gabriel is overused and doesn’t hold its own when paired with our daughter’s name, Nadia. And the two names don’t exactly flow well together, so pairing them up isn’t an option for us. Any suggestions? Middle names for Tiago? Or just different first names all together?
Here are some thoughts on Tiago and Gabriel:
Nicknames (e.g. Benji, Topher, Xander) sometimes loose their charm when used as stand-alone names, so people might like Tiago more if it were a nickname for Santiago. Santiago is currently ranked 200th, but I don’t think it will rise too much higher.
How about Diego? It’s not as hip as Tiago…but it’s got a similar sound, and, because it’s more familiar, it’ll probably get better feedback. In terms of popularity, Diego seems to be plateauing just outside the top 50.
I think Gabriel sounds fantastic with Nadia, personally. But it’s become popular recently (i.e. over 10,000 babies have been named Gabriel every year since 2001) and my hunch is that it will remain popular for a while to come. So I can understand wanting to avoid it for that reason.
Let’s see, middle names for Tiago…I think iambic names like Ramón, Raúl and Noé sound good after Tiago. I also like longer middles (e.g. Antonio, Mauricio).
Here are a few other ideas for first names:
What other advice/suggestions would you offer Tamara?
According to the Elisabeth Vincentelli (whose article “You Are What Your Name Says You Are” was recently published in the New York Times), the big baby-naming trends in France are the letter “a” for girls (Clara, Sarah, Léa) and the letter “o” for boys (Mathéo, Enzo, Hugo).
Vincentelli also notes that, according to sociologist Philippe Besnard,
Until the 1970s the popularity of names trickled down from the upper classes. For instance, “Gilles” peaked in France’s high-society registry in 1942 and in the general population in 1960. That all changed in the 1980s, when the less wealthy and less educated turned into first-name innovators (perhaps caught up in fads spread by popular music and TV) while the rich rediscovered more traditional French-sounding names.
(Thank you to Nancy Friedman of Away With Words for letting me know about the article.